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Innovation on Display

There are a wealth of RFID applications that most of us have only just begun to consider.
By Mark Roberti
Aug 01, 2011Many years ago, shortly after I founded RFID Journal, I was speaking with a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company, who really didn't seem to get radio frequency identification technology. I explained that it was not just a "radio bar code," but a means of allowing computers to interact with the real world. "I don't think we've even begun to imagine the many ways this technology will be deployed," I said. Alas, I failed to convince him or to stimulate his creative juices.

Today, the world can be divided into three camps: Those who still don't get RFID. Those who get it but work at conservative companies that won't adopt the technology until everyone else is using it. And those who not only get it but are figuring out new and innovative ways to employ it.

In this special issue, we highlight 101 innovative applications of RFID technology. Just as the Internet saw an explosion of innovative uses in the late 1990s and early 2000s—book selling, mortgage calculators, immersive games and way more—RFID is seeing a rapid expansion of applications, even before the technology is widely adopted in one particular industry or segment. The applications cover many different areas, such as the arts, hospitality, sports and fitness, and safety and security. What they have in common is that they have nothing to do with what RFID was touted for just a few years ago—namely, tracking cases and pallets in the supply chain.

Our goal in presenting this smorgasbord of applications is to stimulate creativity—to encourage executives to think about the technology in new ways. A few years ago at RFID Journal LIVE!, our annual conference and exhibition in the United States, I was surprised to see a couple of aerospace executives coming out of the retail track and a few pharmaceutical executives attending the Food and Agriculture preconference. But now, it's common for some attendees at our LIVE! events in the United States as well as Europe to take the opportunity to hear speakers from other sectors. Clearly, savvy businesspeople understand that you can learn from what other industries are doing.

Could an RFID system used by the U.S. Forest Service to detect wildfires be adapted to ensure that servers in a data center never overheat? Could a system like the one NASCAR deployed to make sure racing teams use only regulation auto parts reduce counterfeiting of airplane parts? Could a networking or customer service application boost retail sales that haven't picked up since the recession? I don't know for sure, but I do know that Bombardier, one of the world's largest train manufacturers, began developing its RFID track-safety solution after it heard about BP using RFID to improve worker safety at its oil refineries.

The myriad RFID applications described in our cover story make for fun and intriguing reading. But more important, they exemplify a wealth of applications most of us have only just begun to consider. I hope our cover story will expand your interest in the technology's potential.

Photograph: Tom Hurst
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